Friday, October 26, 2007

New animatic

In version 1.0 of TSJOM I had a story reel animatic that ran roughly 9 minutes. Looking back at that original (actually 4th edit of the reel) that I was using as my ‘locked pre-production reel’ I see how I have grown as a story teller since then. The old reel had lots of rather pedantic shots that were exceedingly sequential and needlessly expositional. Too many small actions given too big a place in the narrative had a soporific effect on the pacing of the reel. (ie: it became slow, plodding and sleepy). I guess back in 2002 (when I made it) I felt that I needed to justify all of my story choices with full visual explanations of actions, reactions, events and consequences. These are indeed the core tools of story telling, but I didn’t leave a lot of room for the audience to ‘fill in the blanks’.

Thank heaven for personal growth, eh?

In version 2.0 I am currently working on a new story reel animatic. Now I am working to produce the film to a track of music that I am currently negotiating the license to. This marks a significant change in how I approach the story. The music, with some editing here and there will make the film less than 4 minutes in length. So the current task is seperating the old wheat from the chaff, tossing pedantic literalisms in the story telling and strengthening the core kernels of the idea. Making it all work on a 14 beat music timing only adds to the fun.

Tutorial translation- Breakdowns in Chinese

Thanks again to Victor Luo we have another tutorial in Chinese. My tutorial, Breakdowns Can Be Such a Drag, has been translated into Chinese. So if you’re into Chinese as a language (either for sport or for profit) then feel free to head over there for a look and say a word of thanks to Victor.

I’d say something funny if I could think of it,
but I left all my funny thoughts in my other suit.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rough stuff

I first want to say ‘Thanks!’ to everybody who’s commented so far. It’s a big help to know folks are pulling for me while I try to make this film.

A few folks mentioned that they thought the new style of the paint animation was maybe a bit “too much”. I do appreciate the feedback and I can definitely see where they’re coming from. In fact I felt the same way years ago when I first started working on the film. But I’ve changed, thought through things more. Now if I hear that it’s a bit too much I reply: “Great! That’s just how I want it!”.

Going waaaay back to the very beginning I experimented a good deal with a painterly style I made this one short test that I felt was pretty solid. But something happened as I started to make the film with that render style. It seemed forced. I think this is because at the time I valued specific, smooth, tight animation over emotional expression. After all I’m supposed to be a good character animator, right? It’s something that I think all Cg animators stuggle with (and perhaps many hand drawn animators struggle as well)- the desire to achieve a high level of technical accomplishment, detail and polish as the primary metric for quality. (I’ll call it the Jungle Book Syndrome. Amazingly accomplished animation wasted on a nothing of a film. Heresy, yes, I know. The line for stoning forms to the left. Be sure to upgrade to the extra sharp rocks, folks!) Being a character animator I wanted to have smooth and clean character animation that wasn’t distracted by some rendering effect. The result was to animate on 1’s with lots of fun little details.

However there was a disconnect that I was feeling between the motion and the rendering. When I watched the rendered scenes with a rough painterly style the animation had a feeling similar to live action run through a bunch of photoshop filters (can we call this the Linklater Style yet?). There was a lack of cohesion. The rendering was expressive, the animation motion was more illiterative. The rendering was calling for something a little less polished. But conventional wisdom (and my understanding of animation at the time) says that good animation is polished animation. So unpolishing the animation couldn’t possibly be the right thing to do. So instead I over polished the painted rendering look, toning it way down.

Now I believe that less literal rendering styles work better using less literal motion styles. That means that if I am going to express a sense of emotion with the rougher rendering then all of those precious little Pixar inspired animation efforts would get lost in the shuffle. So for Version 2.0 0f TSJOM I decided to throw out all of my little animation goodies for the betterment of the film as a whole. There needs to be a balance in all of the ingredients, especially if that balance is a little on the rough side.

From a story standpoint it’s very important to me that this film be rough around the edges. In some way the film speaks to the homegenization of life in modern culture (but not exclusively to this). We’re losing our sense of adventure, our sense of connectedness to dirt, sweat, pain, joy - life. We choose the aenesthitized mediocrity of the branded homogenized life rather than run the risk of being inconvenienced, failing, getting dirty, sweaty or hurt. We choose the safe, the mediocre, the easy (and often the overly expensive thinking that this buys us security). But we also trade in the opportunity to find something new, the out of the way treasures, the different, the amazing- in life, in others, in ourselves. This creeping standard of polished mediocrity infiltrates every area of our lives. Where we live, how we move around, what we wear, what we eat, where we work, how we educate ourselves and our kids, our healthcare, our finances, how we spend our leisure time, our faith, the kinds of people we socialize with - and for those of us who animate, even the style of our animation- all are getting narrowed down to the muddled middle of safe, standardized life. Meanwhile our world grows stale, small and petty and our ability to tolerate that which isn’t juuuuust so wanes- but the grass was always perfectly cut and the stores are clean and (most importantly) we fit in.

Here in western Brazil Dirt is a daily friend. Sweat is Dirt’s little sister and she’s always around. Inconvenience is their tag along buddy. Here life isn’t quite as ‘managed’ as in the states. It’s less polished by far. And while that can be annoying at times, I never doubt that I am alive and connected to this place. Each day I find something that really stinks (sometimes literally!) and something so cool and amazing that I’d never find in my old life back in the U.S. So for me it’s important that TSJOM speaks to this.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Secret Joys of Myopia — back in production

You can’t keep a good film down.

I’m very pleased to announce that I have resumed production on my short film The Secret Joys of Myopia. For a taste of what it could look like, have a peek at this new “2.0″ version production test.


Longtime friends and followers of my site may be familiar with the turbulent history of this short film (for those who aren’t, don’t worry, I’ll be writing to fill you in on the history of this project). So it’s a real joy to be able to resume work on it. I really believe in the story, more so now than ever before. And after a few months of trial and error and exploration I have finally found a production friendly way of capturing the expressive painterly look that marked the original. Meaning, making this film won’t kill me. It’ll just hurt me a little. Which is cool, that’s the way it should be. Anyhow, I just felt like the time was right to make this thing finally happen.

I will be posting a lot about the production of the film here on my site. In fact the “plog” (production blog) of TSJM might just dominate much of my writing here for the next few months. Which might be interesting. Or not. Heh.

Thanks to everybody for their support and their kind words. I’m hopeful that I can deliver the goods in a way that exceeds expectations.

And so, game on!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Took a break…

Wow, been a few weeks since I’ve posted here. The usual excuse applies- I’ve been very busy doing other things. Some of that busy-ness is animation related (more on that this week), while other stuff has been water filter ministry related (more on that as well). I’m weeks behind on my email, too. Go figure.

Anyhow, stick around and we’ll have some really fun stuff soon- with pictures!